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Death - Human Review

About.com Rating 4 Star Rating

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Death - Human

Death - Human

Relapse Records
Long considered as a landmark release in extreme metal, the fourth album from Death, Human, celebrates its twentieth anniversary with the now commonplace re-issue treatment courtesy of Relapse.

Such re-issues can be greeted with scorn by fans, annoyed at bands and labels seemingly out to make a quick buck by adding a few poor quality outtakes to an album they already have. It’s often a valid point of view, but all except the most cynical will surely give this one the benefit of any doubt.

Why? Well, first of all, Relapse doesn’t exactly fit the profile of a cash-hungry corporation. Sure, they are a business and want to make money, but if that was their only concern they would be falling over themselves to sign up the next big metalcore band rather than focusing on a twenty year old death metal album.

Secondly, this release is tremendous value for money. Available in two and three disc editions, all versions feature a staggering amount of bonus material, including demos and instrumental versions which track the development of the songs that made the final cut.

Thirdly, the album has been put together with the full involvement of those who were musically closest to Chuck Schuldiner at the time of its creation. The remixing was handled by Jim Morris who produced the original and his understanding of Death shines through. The new mix is heavy to the point of brain-destroying, but like the music of Death itself, there is a deft and sympathetic lightness of touch at work in the control room.

Finally and most importantly, let’s not overlook the fact that Human is a simply cracking album. Although firmly rooted in death metal, by this stage of its career, Death had little in common with the gore drenched grind of Cannibal Corpse or the satanic blast beats of Deicide, instead choosing to explore increasingly progressive avenues, expanding the boundaries of what was considered possible in death metal.

From the jazz-inspired chording that introduces “Flattening Of Emotions” to the off-beat rhythmic adventures of “Secret Face” to the watertight stop start shred of “Lack Of Comprehension,” this was undeniable proof that extreme metal was capable of being about something more than angry kids pretending to worship the devil. It was crushing but cerebral and the precursor to an era where technicality is seen as a given in extreme metal.

The new mix of the album gives greater separation between instruments and ensures every note is crystal clear, all without the slightest hint of the triggers or samples so over-used by modern acts that owe their very existence to the likes of Death. This is about as real and sublime as old school death metal gets and brims with as much vitality today as it did some two decades ago.

(released June 21, 2011 on Relapse Records)

Disclosure: A review copy was provided by the publisher. For more information, please see our Ethics Policy.

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